For many travelers, meals are not simply the source of sustenance between visiting sites, and instead it is the opportunity to experience other cuisines that is the principal reason to venture abroad. It is with these travelers in mind that Silversea created its Culinary and Wine Enriched Voyages. These itineraries allow guests to try new dishes, explore local markets with a chef from the ship, and dine at some of the world’s leading restaurants, from local bahn mi shops to celebrated Michelin-starred ones. Silversea’s Asia Collection includes Culinary Voyages with excursions like a class at the Morning Glory Cooking School in Hoi An, for an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine, and a day exploring the “spice trail” of Penang in Malaysia. In Hong Kong, a culinary outing includes stops at a noodle shop for wonton soup, a bakery for an egg tart, and a tea shop to sample herbal brews or a glass of sugarcane juice.
The flavorful adventures continue onboard the Silversea ships with regional dishes served at the restaurants, and cooking demonstrations that will expand your knowledge of curries, dumplings, and the fresh herbs and spices that distinguish Asia’s various cuisines. Chef David Bilsland oversees Silversea’s Cooking School at Sea not only in Asia, but on all the line’s sailings around the world. We sat down with him to learn some more about one of travel’s most fascinating jobs.
You have worked with Silversea for more than a decade. Do you know how many countries or ports you’ve visited in that time?
I have never sat down and made a list of all the ports or countries I have visited, however Silversea travels to all seven continents and is adding new ports of call every year. It is fair to say I have visited anywhere with a coastline over the last 11 years. Silversea will visit over 900 destinations in 2018.
Before you became the director of the cooking school you were the executive chef for the entire Silversea fleet. What are the challenges of cooking on a cruise ship as opposed to your earlier experiences in restaurants and hotels?
The first challenge is the fact that the ships move! Don’t leave an egg sitting on the table or it will quickly fall. Logistics are a key area and ordering ingredients requires careful planning. Sometimes a ship can be away from a major port for several days so fresh foods need to be sourced and stored carefully. The crew work hard every day to deliver a great product, but it is not always easy when ships are at sea for long spells of time.
Silversea has Culinary Voyages in Asia, Australia and the Pacific, Europe, and North America. Do you sail on all of them?
Yes, but not all at once. This year has taken me from Los Angeles to Auckland, Rio de Janeiro to Barbados, Lisbon to London, Tokyo to Anchorage and now Copenhagen to Copenhagen, on an itinerary that goes to the far northern tip of Europe. I will sail the Atlantic, cross the Bering Straits, and follow the Humboldt Current before the year’s end.
What sort of guests seek out Silversea’s Culinary Voyages? Is there anything that distinguishes them from other travelers?
Our guests are all seasoned travelers and appreciate good food. I have a broad range of guests who attend my presentations and activities, but they all share a passion for fine dining and food experiences. I try to share new foods, cooking techniques and local flavors whenever I can during our culinary voyages.
Have you seen changes over the years in the interests of passengers? Are they more open and interested in certain cuisines? Has the cooking school had to evolve to accommodate gluten-free, vegan, and other dietary restrictions?
Food culture and eating out have changed very much in recent years and I feel guests are looking for new dining experiences. Our growing range of restaurants on-board Silversea reflects this. There is a fascination with spices and I often feature them in recipes or presentations. Also, regarding the rise in special dietary needs, we have to continue to adapt and serve our guests accordingly, so I include alternatives whenever possible.
How do you decide which dishes to prepare at the school?
I look at the destinations first and then source the local ingredients on a shopping trip that is included as part of the demonstration. Once we are back on-board I prepare the dish with samples for everyone to taste. I love to make breads, macarons, and chutneys. I also enjoy making local snacks that are popular in the ports we are visiting, like empanadas or satays.
Discover more voyages to Asia and special offers at cruiseafar.com/asia.